April 27th – Also near Stonnall, a classic spring view: cottages at Mill Lane, Lynn surrounded by an ocean of bright yellow oilseed rape, the cheesy scent of which is filling the air in the backlanes at the moment.
It’s still way too cold, but the countryside is showing itself beautifully.
August 6th – Today’s ride was, oddly, mostly observed by cats. Dozing cats. Strolling cats. Stalking cats. Cats taking the air, the afternoon off or the initiative. From Brownhills to Croxall and back, it was all about the felines.
I saw all these fine examples on the same rife, and more I didn’t manage to photograph. No idea what drew them all out this afternoon, but I hope it happens again.
June 26th – Back near Lower Stonnal, a noxious assault of a different kind…
I was riding back down the lanes and I realised there was a strong farmyard smell, which is unusual there. I travelled some way further and discovered I had been downwind of this: it’s a crop sprinkler spraying liquid slurry on the grass to improve it (I assume the pump is elsewhere).
This is a dairy farm, and they’re using one of the cattle’s most copious products to restore the growth to the pasture.
Nicely circular, but very smelly.
March 11th – And at the other end, a trip from Blake Street through the backlanes for a change. A fine evening, a fine golden hour. The same sun that shines on inner city Aston shines on the country byways of rural Lower Stonnall, and just as beautifully.
January 8th – I wasn’t expecting to be caught by the rain this afternoon. For some reason I though the rains weren’t coming in until later in the evening, and I was caught without full waterproofs. To heap on the misery, I had to nip down to Stonnall on an errand on the way home. It was wet, but not cold. I got soaked.
Surely, this rain must end soon? I’m developing webbed feet…
May 15th – It was a dreadful commute on the way to the station this morning – driving rain, cold, windy. When I got to Redditch, the rain had lessened, but conditions were still challenging.
What a difference, then, when I emerged in the afternoon sunlight. The rain had gone, skies were blue and apart from an unpleasant westerly wind, it was a joy to cycle the backlanes home. Beware, though, if using Forge Lane in Little Aston tomorrow. There’s a tree fallen over the road near the old mill. Most cars would pass OK, but if you’re in a 4WD or van it might be difficult.
December 22nd – The rain was evil on my return through Lower Stonnall, aided and abetted by a low but sharp wind. As I came back down Gravelly Lane, I stopped to look at Ivy Cottage in the dusk. Ivy Cottage is a landmark for me: it stands at an oblique, curious angle to junction, and it’s lights indicate that I’m nearly home, and have to turn right. It’s a lovely cottage, and looks best in spring. I know the seasons are advancing by this cottage, and the degree of night-time when I pass it on my return from work. Yesterday was the shortest day and winter solstice, from now, for me, spring starts. This is not trivial. From here, everything opens out.
A reader of this journal remarked to me a few weeks ago that I sounded tired in my posts. It’s not tiredness as such, it’s fatigue; the attrition of the dark and bad weather, and the knowledge that worse was to come. For an outdoors person, the nights closing in seems calamitous, inevitable, and depressing. I feel it acutely. From now, slowly, almost imperceptibly, daylight extends. It will creep gradually into my journeys, and in a few weeks, rather than the death and retreat I’ve seen since summer passed, life will return and nature will awaken. I know there’s bad weather to come, but having seen the shortest day, I can now face anything.
I can understand why everyone from the Celts to the Romans and Christians had a midwinter celebration. They felt this point was a symbol of time’s passage. I concur. From here, the riding gets better and better.
September 17th – I met this splendid chap whilst pulled over to let a tractor pass on my way home through Lower Stonnall. Maintaining a respectful distance, he didn’t take his eyes off me. He clearly takes his security duties very seriously.
What a beautiful cat. Wonder if he’s a pedigree?
July 3rd – Not half a mile from taking the rain sodden, misery-laden pictures in the last entry, a couple of things cheered me up. Cycling is a very effective antidepressant and I almost always finish a ride feeling happier than when I started it. I was cycling down Gravelley Lane towards Lower Stonnall on my way home, and movement on my left caught my eye. Turning to look, there was a young calf frolicking in a field of fresh grass, having an absolute ball, presumably with the rest of her herd, just having been turned out there. I headed for a gap in the hedge to take a picture, but sadly, the view was blocked. I adore cows, they’re so nosey…
Further along the lane I spotted the snapdragons in a field gateway. Antirrhinum are not, I believe, native to the UK, but garden imports from warmer climes (although I could be wrong and feel free to correct me). One often sees them in the countryside at spots where flytippers have dumped garden rubbish, and I suspect these delightful blooms to be of that category. However they got here, they’re gorgeous, and very welcome on such a dull afternoon.
In case you’re wondering, they’re called snapdragons because the flower allegedly looks like a dragon’s head, and if squeezed gently between thumb and forefinger, they open like a mouth.